Different Starting Points That Are Really The Same Point

I’m a writer who tend to fly by the seat of my pants. My gut reaction to detailed outlines is they’re the same as writing for me, and sometimes outlining a book satisfies my muse to the point where she feels she’s finished her job when I finish what is essentially a guideline for a longer work.

But if you want to create something that is complex and satisfying on multiple levels, you’re either going to outline your work or you’re going to write and rewrite draft after draft after draft.

And a writer who doesn’t outline is a writer who hasn’t learned to use all the tools available to them. And like any tool, the more you use it the better you’ll get. You only get to Carnegie Hall one way.

My process starts with a titles, and the novel I’ve worked on for a while has gone through several. I’m finally zeroing in on the one that will work on a couple levels. I finished Doctor Sleep by Stephen King last night. A pretty straightforward title, as it’s a name/title for the main character, Dan Torrance. The first book to showcase Dan was The Shining, and that’s another straightforward title as well, describing his psychic ability.

Myself, I prefer titles that work on a couple levels, but finding one is as hard as writing a story. Hence the various attempts on the current work. Heck, I haven’t written a title for this post yet, since I don’t know what best summarizes what I’m trying to get across. Get a title to serve different purposes and you’ve probably got a good story to go along with it.

Right now I’m looking forward to picking up King’s latest, Revival, which seems a layered description for a work about religion and resurrection. I think the last one where King did as good a job was Misery, which was the name of a main character from writer Paul Sheldon’s romance novels as well as the pain Sheldon experiences while held captive by his #1 fan, Annie Wilkes.

Only time will tell whether I’m able to put together a title that’s worthy of the story. I need to finish the work first.

Robert Sawyer talked about this several years back at a Worldcon, when he was promoting Mindscan. Sawyer noted that the story, which was about uploaded consciousness, was usually read as “mind” and “scan.” But he had liked that the title could also be read as “minds” and “can” as well, which seems to me to go further toward examining what the book is about in the first place.

That all being said, the working title for the novel is Through Grief. Make of that what you may. It’s the most I’ll reveal besides the odd snippets. I’m going to save the “elevator pitch” for an actual pitch.

My lovely spouse gets an acknowledgement for helping, as I ran several titles past her this afternoon. This was the best, as I points my muse in the direction I want her to take as we take flight together.


About stephenwnagy

writer, father, husband. not necessarily in that order.
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